Review Summary: Thrilling and expertly-crafted, Project 86 assemble an album for the ages.Darkness
has helped mold some of the greatest albums in existence. From Alice in Chains' Dirt
, to Nirvana's Nevermind
and Rage Against the Machine's self-titled masterpiece. Each of these records has helped contribute something special to the overarching rock genre. In 1996, California-based alternative metal band Project 86 was formed, shortly after that they released their very own self-titled record on June 16th, 1998. The album was produced by the late, great Bryan Carlstrom, a man who helped engineer a string of excellent albums from bands such as the aforementioned Alice in Chains, Social Distortion as well as The Offspring. What makes these artists worth noting is the fact that Project 86 manages to take influence from all of them, along with others (such as Tool and P.O.D.), while maintaining a sound that comes across as being completely fresh and original. Inspiration is always great fuel, but simple admiration is never enough to ignite a fire.
creeps up as the first track on the album, and it is equal parts eerie, menacing, and all-around breathtaking. Featuring hard-edged, down-tuned guitar-work, the song immediately gives a great cliff-notes version on what to expect from the remainder of this collection. Featuring hair-raising opening lines such as "back so full of scrapes / the miles I've walked of waste / to fade and fall away against / numb my hunger to taste"
and grim, climatic lyrics "unrealistic ideals / promises I can't keep / I don't have those luxuries / I don't have the time you do to sleep"
, vocalist Andrew Schwab exhibits an impressive look into his inner torment and frustrations, making the album feel very personal in the process. Throughout the remainder of this record, Schwab wrestles against these relentless thoughts - of fear, guilt and ambivalence - with the greatest of successes: he does it without coming across as either whiny or self-indulgent, instead aiming for brute honesty, giving the record an overall feeling of catharsis because of his unflinching commitment. In spite of the darkness that brims throughout, the band seem to be enjoying themselves with this record, easily helping withstand any sort of repetition in the process, while making this an album that is a rightfully consistent and constantly well-executed machine.
Gritty and daring, and a lot like heavy metal records throughout the ages, Project 86
makes way for a plethora of 5-6 minute-long tracks that bask in plenty of frantic solos, and bone-chilling cliffhangers. The album closer in particular, "When Darkness Reigns"
, is the longest song on here, clocking-in at a near 7 minutes, it makes use of every-waking-second, illuminating a battle against the "death of dreams"
. What may be the best track on the record is a thought-provoking display in lyricism. "When Darkness Reigns"
initially seems to be a very dark (pun intended) and brooding song, eventually, however, it grows into being a battle for one's soul as the song progresses to a more hopeful, rising finale, boasting such lines as "you've lost my enemy / and now taste defeat / now taste your own saliva / because you'll never quench the heat / arise from the dead and wake"
. While it may seem tough to handle such demons with such grace, coming across like a true veteran with his vocal performance here, Schwab aids in delivering a stunning portrayal of one's fight for survival against evil and all of its might.
Unique and unpredictable, the album is diverse in every regard, making way for subtle political commentary, as evident during "Independence?"
, along with an intriguing guest-spot. "Six Sirens"
features P.O.D. front-man Sonny Sandoval who helps to add another level to an already strong album, making this easily one of the most energized tracks on the record, the song speeds along at a rapid-fire pace and never lets up, featuring a great chorus and fantastic riffs throughout; which are very reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine's "Wake Up"
lands right before "Six Sirens"
, which is oddly labelled as track 7 on the album, and it cleverly criticizes political figures with lines such as "how does it feel to find yourself playing for the wrong team with the stakes so high / how does it feel to find yourself so blind to the sin you're hiding deep inside"
at the beginning, and the song only gets angrier as it progresses to its harsh and explosive final moments; leading brilliantly into "Six Sirens"
. Much earlier in the record, "Rebuttal"
takes a stab at salespeople with lines like "blame everyone but yourself / be careful what you ask for / 'cause you've got your wish with judgement / with payback / liar / you've got a lot of nothing to say / you've got a lot of hatred to spray"
is a dazzling song with a blazing, almost wordless chorus that simply sounds like Schwab screaming "blame"
while being distorted into the background by the band's high-voltage instrumentals.
Thankfully the album never lets up. After a slew of such great melodies, it continues said quality in songs like "Bleed Season"
and the single-worthy "Pipe Dream"
; which was the basis for their follow-up album, Drawing Black Lines
. To say that the album is loaded to the teeth with outstanding content is an understatement. Quality is delicately balanced throughout this record and you'd be hard-pressed to find a song that is either lazy or unmemorable in any way, every contribution feels earned and expertly-crafted in the process. This self-titled record is a clear-cut masterpiece that never dwindles in quality throughout the ten track, 49-minute runtime. For fans of Tool and Rage Against the Machine, this album is a must-hear in every conceivable way.